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Late Malawian Archbishop Eulogized as “humble, respectful, generous, man of prayer”

Late Archbishop Tarcisius Gervazio Ziyaye of Malawi’s Lilongwe Archdiocese who died Monday, December 14.

The late Archbishop Tarcisius Gervazio Ziyaye who, until his death Monday, December 14 has been the Local Ordinary of Malawi’s Lilongwe Archdiocese, is being eulogized as a humble, respectful, generous, and prayerful church leader. 

Archbishop Ziyaye who previously headed the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa (AMECEA) passed on in the Southern Africa nation of Namibia where he was receiving treatment. He was aged 71.

In a message on her Facebook page soon after the passing on of the Archbishop became public, Sr. Anne Muiruri, a former Administrative Secretary to the Secretary General of AMECEA eulogizes Archbishop Ziyaye as “a humble, respectful, humorous, understanding, generous” leader who “above all, loved the Church.”

“It's so sad to receive such news. I worked with him closely at AMECEA Secretariat Nairobi … We experienced him as a father,” the member of the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi (ASN) recalls in her Facebook post December 14.

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Sr. Muiruri condoles with the people of God in Malawi saying, “My sincere condolences to the entire fraternity of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe, the family and entire Church in Malawi. Rest in peace Your Grace.”

On his part, AMECEA’s Pastoral Coordinator, Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo remembers the late as “a man of order.” 

“You needed to be orderly when working with him. He needed one to be thoroughly prepared when doing things,” Fr. Chimombo who previously served as the Deputy Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) told ACI Africa December 14.

The Malawian Cleric added in reference to Archbishop Ziyaye, “He loved his work and was so particular about Church matters especially issues of liturgy. He worked to formulate the Liturgical Process in the country and worked hard to ensure that liturgy has some order.”

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The Nairobi-based Cleric went on to describe the Archbishop as a selfless Church leader who “would want to carry other people’s problems but not burden them with his problems.”

“He would go outward to serve people even when he was in pain and you wouldn’t realize that he was suffering,” Fr. Chimombo recalled the late Archbishop in his interview with ACI Africa.

At the same Nairobi Secretariat of AMECEA, Fr. Andrew Kaufa called to mind his meeting with the Archbishop a couple of months ago.

“He complained of some back pain and said that he was to go to hospital, but I did not think that it was serious and it would end up like this,” Fr. Kaufa who is AMECEA’s Social Communications Director recounted to ACI Africa December 14.

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The Malawian-born member of the Montfort Missionaries described the late Archbishop as a “humbled mans” and explained, “If a Priest lost a relative, Archbishop Ziyaye would be present on the day of the funeral at 9 o’clock until the burial was done, something that is not seen in many leaders as they come for Mass only.”

Archbishop Ziyaye served as the Chairman of AMECEA for a six-year period that ended in 2014.

The current Chairman of AMECEA, Bishop Charles Kasonde has mourned the late Archbishop as “a committed servant” of God and the Church.

Members of the Catholic Church in the Eastern African region are “in profound shock to hear about this news about Archbishop Ziyaye whom we remember with warmth, love and respect as a committed servant who loved God and his Church with singlemindedness,” Bishop Kasonde of Zambia’s Solwezi Diocese says in his statement addressed to ECM Chairman, Archbishop Thomas Msusa.

The late Archbishop’s “outstanding humility, spiritual life and discipline leave no doubt in hearts that the Most Rev. has left a big gap that cannot be filled with any other person,” the Zambian Bishop adds.

“Be assured of our prayers during these trying times, and may he rest in eternal peace,” the Chairman of the Executive Board of AMECEA adds in his message to ECM members.

When the late Archbishop was AMECEA Chairman, he doubled as Chancellor of the Kenya-based Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

In a statement shared with ACI Africa, the Vice-Chancellor of CUEA, Fr. Stephen Mbugua Ngari, says the leadership of the Institution received the news of Archbishop Ziyaye’s demise with “profound shock and sorrow.” 

He says that during Archbishop Ziyaye’s tenure as the Chancellor of CUEA, the AMECEA institution of higher learning “underwent extensive infrastructural expansion.”

At the time of his demise, Archbishop Ziyaye was serving as the Chairman of CUEA’s Board of Trustees (BOT).  

“The Trustees (CUEA), together with the University Council lead the drive in implementing CUEA’s Transformation Strategy; implementation of this strategy is at an advanced stage,” Fr. Mbugua says in reference to CUEA BOT that has been under the leadership of the late Archbishop.

“As a University, we will miss His Grace Archbishop Ziyaye’s steadfast leadership and wisdom,” the Kenyan-born Cleric says and quoting the book of Psalm adds, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His Saints.”

The late Archbishop is also being mourned by political leaders in the Southeastern African landlocked country. 

In a Facebook post, the country’s President Lazarus Chakwera says that he “learnt with great shock the passing on of Archbishop Tarcisius G. Ziyaye of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe.”

“His faith in Christ, belief in humanity and courage in pursuing justice for all have long been an inspiration to me and so many,” says Malawi’s Head of State. 

On their part, Malawi’s Vice President, Saulos Chilima, and his wife, Mary Chilima, who are practicing Catholics, say they are “mortified and immobilized with deep grief” to learn of Archbishop Ziyeya’s demise. 

They say in reference to the late Archbishop, “You were an amazing Shepherd and you sought and fought for all God’s children with utmost zeal and undiminishing passion. You stood for the truth and defended the weak and the powerless against all earthly excesses of power and privilege.”

“Our deepest prayer is that from the sanctuary of God’s amazing Kingdom, you continue to pray for our nation never to lose the democratic gains for which you fought with all essence,” Malawi’s Vice President and family add.

The leader of the opposition in Malawi’s Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa admires the late Archbishop’s “personal courage and selfless contribution towards the fight against the notorious one-party dictatorship under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).”

Referencing the 1992 Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops in the country in which the Church leaders in Malawi reproached the government for its authoritarianism, Mr. Nankhumwa adds, “It was that courage coupled with genuine patriotism displayed by Archbishop Ziyaye in cohort with the other famous … Bishops that brought about political freedom and multiparty democracy in Malawi in 1993 and 1994.”

Ordained a Priest in August 1977, the late Archbishop was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Malawi’s Dedza Diocese from 1991 until 1993 when he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Lilongwe. 

A year later, he was appointed as the Local Ordinary of Lilongwe, succeeding Bishop Matthias Chimole who had retired aged 78. 

In January 2001, the late Archbishop Ziyaye was transferred to Malawi’s Blantyre Archdiocese.

Pope Francis appointed him as the second Local Ordinary of Lilongwe in July 2013, succeeding Archbishop Rémi Joseph Gustave Sainte-Marie, a member of the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) who retired at the age of 75.

In his message posted on Facebook, the opposition leader in Malawi’s Parliament further says, “I shall always respect the late Archbishop Ziyaye for his exceptional leadership in liturgical worship in the Catholic Church and his strong commitment to the ministerial formation.”